Germany’s antitrust crackdown on Google is paying off, with the company agreeing to change how it handles user data.
Germany’s antitrust watchdog, the Bundeskartellamt, initiated proceedings over Google’s use of data, resulting in the company making significant changes. The agency outlined how Google will process user data moving forward:
In the future Google will have to provide its users with the possibility to give free, specific, informed and unambiguous consent to the processing of their data across services. For this purpose Google has to offer corresponding choice options for the combination of data. The selection dialogues must be designed so as not to guide users manipulatively towards cross-service data processing (avoiding “dark patterns”). Where data are not actually processed across services and Google’s data processing terms explicitly make this clear, Google will not have to offer choice options. Any obligations under the General Data Protection Regulation remain unaffected by these obligations.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, lauded the decision as one that will protect users’ rights and improve competition:
“Data are key for many business models used by large digital companies,” said Mundt. “The market power of large digital companies is based on the collection, processing and combination of data. Google’s competitors do not have these data and are thus faced with serious competitive disadvantages. In the future users of Google services will have a much better choice as to what happens to their data, how Google can use them and whether their data may be used across services. This not only protects the users’ right to determine the use of their data, but also curbs Google’s data-driven market power. Large digital companies offer a wide range of different digital services. Without the users’ free and informed consent the data from Google’s services and third-party services can no longer be cross-used in separate services offered by Google or even be combined. We have made sure that Google will provide a separate choice option in the future.”
While Google will likely roll out these changes across the EU, it is unlikely users in other parts of the world will see these options unless regulators press the issue.